Wash. Post exonerates Hamas of resumption of Gaza fighting

In its Aug. 9 edition, the Washington Post runs a huge, six-column headline across the top of page A7 that reads as follows: “More rockets fly as three-day Gaza truce ends[.]”

Just below the headline is a three-line sub-head that reads: “Palestinian boy, 10, first casualty as Israel, Hamas resume strikes.”

Taken together, the headline and the sub-head leave readers with an impression woefully at odds with actual reality.  For readers who just glance at the headline, there is no indication whatever that it was Hamas that broke a 72-hour ceasefire, and the first to resume the fighting when the ceasefire expired.

One might argue that the mention of “More rockets fly” should indicate that it was Hamas that made those rockets fly, but most  readers won’t make that connection.

The sub-head is even more off the mark with its erroneous formulation that “Israel, Hamas resume strikes.”  Not only does the sub-head, like the headline, fail to make it explicit that it was Hamas that resumed the fighting at a time when Israel held its fire, but it suggests that it actually may have been Israel that broke the truce.  Why?  Because when you read that “Israel, Hamas resume strikes,” you might well conclude that it was Israel, not Hamas, that resumed strikes – since Israel is mentioned before Hamas.

The reality, badly mangled by the headline and the sub-head, is that Israel held its fire until after Hamas lobbed a few missiles before the expiration of the ceasefire and again held its fire while Hamas began pounding southern Israel at the conclusion of the ceasefire.

Just compare the lead paragraph of the article, which happens to make that plain (emphasis added): “A brief three-day peace crumbled Friday after militants in Gaza fired dozens of rockets at Israel and Israeli forces responded with their own salvos, including an airstrike near a mosque in Gaza that killed a 10-year-old boy.”

It was the “militants” (actually, Hamas is certified internationally as a terrorist organization, so why shy away from using the T-word?) who fired first, and it was Israeli forces who responded to these Hamas attacks.  The boy would not have been killed had Hamas not initiated a new round of fighting.  If Hamas had been quiet, Israel would have kept quiet.  And the boy would be alive today.

The lead paragraph got it right.  The headline and the sub-head got it wrong.  They effectively whitewashed Hamas.

Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers.